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Kimberly Springer

educator, writer, and activist, was born Anna Julia Haywood in Raleigh, North Carolina, to Hannah Stanley, a slave. There is no consensus regarding her father, although he was most likely her mother's owner, Dr. Fabius J. Haywood, or his brother, George Washington Haywood. Anna exhibited a love of books and a gift for learning early in her childhood. Hannah was hired out as a nursemaid to a successful local lawyer, whose family most likely assisted her daughter in learning to read and write. Most important, however, was Anna's mother herself, who although illiterate, encouraged her daughter's education.

In 1867 Anna was one of the first students admitted to St Augustine s Normal School and Collegiate Institute a recently founded Episcopal school for newly freed slaves At age nine she found herself tutoring students older than herself and decided to earn her teaching credentials At St Augustine s ...

Article

Enslaved husband and wife abolitionists whose self‐liberation from slavery in Georgia to freedom in England represents one of the most daring escapes from American enslavement. In 1848 light‐skinned Ellen conceived a plan to escape by cutting her hair, donning male clothing, and ‘passing’ as a southern white male slaveholder travelling to the North for medical treatment, while her darker‐skinned husband William posed as a faithful slave valet. After a dangerous journey through the South, the couple reached Boston, where their story of escape made them causes célèbres in abolitionists circles. With the fugitive slave William Wells Brown, the Crafts gave a series of anti‐slavery lectures throughout New England. Their freedom was threatened, however, by the passing of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law, which provided for the return of fugitive slaves to their masters in the South, and also mandated the assistance of northerners in the fugitives' capture. In November ...

Article

James Sellman

Frederick Douglass was more than a great African American leader. He was, in the words of his biographer William S. McFeely, “one of the giants of nineteenth-century America.” He was a man driven by his anger at injustice, McFeely observed, a man who “never ran away from anything”—except the bondage of slavery. Even in that, he took flight not simply to escape but to engage. After gaining his freedom, the former slave turned in his tracks and confronted the institution head-on.

Douglass played a prominent role in nineteenth-century reform movements, not only through his abolitionism but also in his support for women's rights and black suffrage. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he stayed true to his principles, remaining steadfast in his commitment to integration and civil rights. Douglass was militant but never a separatist. He rejected the nationalist rhetoric and latter-day conservatism of black abolitionist Martin Robison Delany ...

Article

David W. Blight

Frederick Douglass lived for twenty years as a slave and nearly nine years as a fugitive slave. From the 1840s to his death in 1895 he attained international fame as an abolitionist, editor, orator, statesman, and the author of three autobiographies that became classics of the slave narrative tradition. Douglass lived to see the Emancipation of the slaves during the Civil War and made a major contribution to interpreting the meaning of those epochal events. He labored for the establishment of black civil rights and witnessed their betrayal during Reconstruction and the Gilded Age. He advocated women's rights long before they were achieved.

It took nearly a century after his death for Douglass s work to receive widespread attention in school curriculums and in the scholarly fields of literature and history With the flowering of African American history and culture in the 1960s and a greatly increased attention to slavery ...

Article

Charles P. Toombs

and prototype for the title character in Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852). Josiah Henson was born a slave in Charles County, Maryland, on 15 June 1789. The details of his life are recorded in The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave, Now an Inhabitant of Canada, as Narrated by Himself (1849). As a very young child Henson states that he was largely unaware that his life was in any way remarkable. It was not until the death of his master, Dr. McPherson and the sale of his mother and siblings that the real horrors and anxieties of slave life impressed him After his family is sold he recalls earlier times when his mother was sexually assaulted and his father was mutilated In spite of the cruel treatment his mother received at the hands of so called Christians she taught him ...

Article

Peter Hudson

Josiah Henson was originally thought to be the model for Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin. He was born into slavery in Charles County, Maryland, but showed such loyalty and devotion that his owner, Isaac Riley, granted him exceptional privileges and responsibilities, and allowed him to work as a Methodist Episcopal preacher. Through his meager salary as a preacher, Henson was able to save almost $300, which he hoped would buy his freedom. Riley agreed with Henson on a price of $450, but knowing that Henson was illiterate, Riley changed the contract to $1,000 and then made plans to sell him. Henson learned of these betrayals and fearing forced separation from his family decided to escape to Canada, settling in Dresden, Canada West (Ontario).

Henson became a British patriot while in Canada and led a volunteer brigade against William Lyon Mackenzie and the Americans ...

Article

Cecily Jones

The first female African‐American author of a fugitive slave narrative, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861). Born in North Carolina to an enslaved mother, who died when Jacobs was aged 6, she then lived with her grandmother and her mistress, from whom she learnt to read and write. Following her mistress's death, Jacobs was sent to Dr James Norcom, who subjected her to prolonged physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. To avoid Norcom's unwanted sexual attentions, Jacobs began a relationship with a white attorney, with whom she had two children.

Hoping that by running away she might persuade Norcom to sell her children to their father, in 1835 Jacobs concealed herself above a storeroom in her grandmother's house, before escaping to the North in 1842. She joined a circle of abolitionists who worked for the North Star, Frederick Douglass's newspaper. In 1853 ...

Article

Russell H. Davis

Lucy Bagby Johnson's capture, detention, and trial in Cleveland, Ohio, created great excitement in the city in January 1861 and for a time threatened serious consequences. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 (one of two federal Fugitive Slave Laws passed by Congress) had led to other attempts to remove fugitive slaves from the city between 1850 and 1860, but the case of Johnson overshadowed them all in the interest and indignation it aroused.

On the morning of January 19, 1861 a group of law officers led by a deputy marshal forcibly entered the home where Lucy Bagby was employed removed her and placed her in the county jail on a charge filed by her owner of being a runaway slave A mob gathered about the jail and threatened to remove her from the custody of the sheriff Three of Cleveland s prominent white lawyers volunteered to act as ...

Article

Kenneth Wiggins Porter

Luis Pacheco owes his fame principally to Republican Joshua R. Giddings's semifictional antislavery work The Exiles of Florida (1858). Pacheco was born on December 26, 1800, in Spanish Florida, at New Switzerland, a plantation on the Saint Johns River. He was the slave of Francis Philip Fatio. His parents were “pureblooded negroes,” and his father, Adam, was a “remarkably intelligent and ambitious negro,” a “carpenter, boat-builder, and driver.” Early on, Pacheco became acquainted with the neighboring Seminoles, among whom he had a sister. A brother had been captured as a child but had returned some twenty years later, and from him Pacheco “picked up a great deal of the language.” During his boyhood, his master's daughter, Susan Philippa Fatio taught him to read and write He was ambitious to learn and of quick perception and acquired a good deal of book learning But he ...

Article

Kate Clifford Larson

Harriet Tubman was one of the most famous conductors on the Underground Railroad. Her successful, secret journeys into Maryland during the 1850s to rescue enslaved women, men, and children have immortalized her in the minds of Americans for one hundred and fifty years. Born into slavery on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Tubman gained international acclaim during her lifetime as an Underground Railroad operator, abolitionist, Civil War spy and nurse, suffragist, and humanitarian. After escaping from enslavement in 1849, Tubman dedicated herself to fighting for freedom, equality, and justice for the remainder of her long life, earning her the biblical name “Moses” and a place among the nation’s most famous historical figures.